PESHAWAR: In a move that apparently spells the end of the armed Aman Lashkers established in 2008 to fight militancy in Peshawar district, the authorities in Khyber-Pakhtunkwa (K-P) have directed these groups to hand their arms and night vision goggles back to the police.
These Lashkars were earlier asked to return their armed guards, hired by the police under the Special Police Officers (SPO) programme. These SPOs were deployed in police stations as well as with commanders of Lashkers in Adezai, Mashogagar, Masho Khel, Bazid Khel, Suliman Khel and Badhaber.
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“We were asked to return our armed men [SPOs] for Muharram duty but later it was decided not to return them and now we have been asked to hand over all the AK-47s police provided to our volunteers in the year 2008,” said Farman, one of the commanders of the Adezai Aman Lashker.
“I had 14 such rifles as well as a very good quality night vision devices which I have returned,” Farman said, adding: “The police and the government used us to divert attention of the militants from police and now they have abandoned us.”
The general secretary of the Badhaber Aman Committee Mukamal Shah told The Express Tribune that he had also been asked by the local SHO to hand over all the five AK-47 rifles he received in 2008, adding that he had also been warned that he would be put behind bars in case of noncompliance.
“I lost one brother in a bomb blast targeting a polio team of Badhaber police and my cousin was slaughtered by Mangal Bagh men in the Khyber Agency on suspicion of spying. Despite of that I was first asked to return two SPOs and now I have been asked to return all the five rifles,” he added.
A police official said the Lashkers were apparently coming to an end, at least for now.
“For the time being this is the policy. Most probably some of them will be allowed to keep their private AK-47s but no guard from police or rifle will be allowed,” he said, adding that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was gone now and there was no need of the Lashkers to operate in the 2008 style any more.
A police official, speaking to The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity, said in year 2008 the people of Mangal Bagh started coming to settled areas in the jurisdiction of Badhaber and kidnapping people for ransom in broad daylight.
“It was the ANP leader and the K-P Assembly’s former deputy speaker Khushdil Khan who decided to arm people against this threat and initially the police provided 50 AK-47s to a Lashkar on his recommendation.
“It was a bad decision as locals soon abandoned the night patrolling to guard the girls schools and electricity towers due to the threats issued by the Lashker-e-Islam,” he added.
He said in Mattani and Adezai, the local militants affiliated with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Darra Adam Khel were a significant threat. “So CCPO Dr Salman asked people to come forward and form Adezai Aman Lashker, which was provided around 70 AK-47s,” he added.
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The official claimed that soon these Lashkers with dozens of armed guards discovered that they could use their position to settle scores with personal enemies instead of chasing militants.
He said the police knew about these deviations and it was soon decided to recruit the volunteers on contractual basis to make them police employees and bring them under control.
It, he claimed, was an alternative approach to end the influence of the local Lashkers who were blamed for kidnapping and even murders but even after the creation of SPOs the Aman Lashkers were allowed to operate as they were a constant target of militants in some areas.
“Now the police have taken a decision to take back its men [SPOs] and arms and these resources are to be used now to strengthen themselves,” he added.
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